Quartzy co-founder Adam Regelmann is an MD-PhD. He bypassed a career in gastroenterology to launch Quartzy with Columbia colleague Jayant Kulkarni. Each week Adam answers five questions about science, medicine, and pop-culture.
Are yawns really contagious?
I think it depends on what you mean by the word “contagious.” If my eyes were closed, I didn’t hear you yawn, and I had no way of knowing that you were yawning, I would probably not yawn. Yawns do not release a contagion into the ether. It’s not like coughing into your hand, opening a door, and leaving viral particles on the door knob for others to grab minutes later. I think it’s mostly a trained behavior. So, contagious in the sense that seeing you do something triggers something in me, and I then exhibit the same behavior. It’s like when you run the faucet, you feel like you need to pee.
TV shows often depict “Is anyone here a doctor?!” emergency situations. Has this ever happened to you?
At my friend’s bachelor party in New Orleans, a guy passed out on Bourbon Street. My friend, who is now a pediatric surgeon but at the time was a surgery resident, wanted to help him. So he ran over to the paramedics and was like, “Can I help? I’m a surgeon!” The paramedics were like, “We’ll call you if we need you, doc. We’ll be just fine.” The guy was just drunk.
Of all the X-Men or superhero origin stories, which is most scientifically plausible?
X-Men are mutants. Mutations don’t cause superpowers; they generally cause cancer. I like the evolution of Spider-Man’s beginning. In the original origin story, he was bitten by a radioactive spider. But in the Tobey Maguire version, it was actually a genetically modified spider, so I like the evolution there, as far as keeping up with science goes. Batman is a super rich guy who goes through tons of training, becomes super agile, and has a penchant for engineering. I could see that. That’s the most realistic.
Thoughts on Doogie Howser, M.D., the classic TV comedy-drama in which Neil Patrick Harris played a prodigy physician?
Doogie Howser was a teenager. There’s a lot of maturity you have to have to interact with people who are going through some of the most difficult things they’ll ever have to go through in their lives. Most doctors start their internships when they’re 26, and they’re just barely mature enough to have these kind of conversations—to have the empathy that’s required.
There are people who have the intellect to understand the information required to be a physician. But to be a great physician, you need to be able to empathize and understand where people are coming from. You need to form a therapeutic alliance with your patients. People think you write a prescription for something and people just take it. But a lot of times, it’s understanding the motivations behind why they are or are not taking it; doing a psychosocial assessment to figure out where this person is. That comes with life experience. You need to be able to convince other doctors, too. You need to be a patient advocate often, and get the other doctor bought in. I think that comes with a certain maturity. I honestly don’t remember much about the show, except that Doogie was super smart, and at least once in every episode somebody would exclaim, “Wait, he’s the doctor?!” He did journal daily, so I guess that shows some level of maturity.
What’s a unique Quartzy use case that might surprise people?
A prominent art museum in New York. They have a conservation lab, and they need to keep track of stuff. They signed up with us in the early days, in 2010. When they’re preserving or restoring, they have all these chemicals they need to work with. It’s just like any lab, except they’re not doing any research. It’s like a production facility where the end result is a piece of art. They have protocols for each medium.
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